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Today I attended the PhD thesis defense of Mr. Stefan Niemczyk of the Distributed Systems Group, Fachbereich 16: Elektrotechnik/Informatik of my old university, the University of Kassel, in Germany as the second reviewer and referee. First of all, congratulations to Mr. Niemczyk for the successful defense of his thesis, rated with "very good". The title the thesis is "Dynamische Konfiguration verteilter Informationsverarbeitung in Gruppen heterogener Agenten," which translates to "Dynamic Configuration of the Distributed Information Processing in Groups of Heterogeneous Agents". I can only recommend reading this excellent work to everyone working with teams of (autonomous) robots.

I think this research is not just relevant in the search-and-rescue scenarios in which it was tested, but may also be helpful when designing robots for, e.g., home service robots, the internet of things applications, automated logistics, warehouse management, or for constructing buildings. This technology could thus become an important asset in a later phase of an Industry 4.0 or Made in China 2025 concept, when intelligent production environments are highly automated and exchange goods and material via automated logistic processes and, thus, need to be able to configure their "interface robots" dynamically to each other.

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Today, I attended the LogiMAT China 2017 exhibition in Nanjing, an international trade fair for distribution, materials handling, and information flow. This year, I already visited three exhibitions on logistics and transportation: The fresh logistics and Intertraffic exhibitions were mainly concerned "hardware," either indoor or outdoor, and Intermodal focused mainly on container-based, well, intermodal, logistics. (All three, however, also had exhibits and presentations on IT solutions.) LogiMAT puts the logistics inside a factory or warehouse into the center of its attention, but is different in one more aspect: a large percentage of the exhibitions supported aspects of automation and self-organization, i.e., the trending topic of intelligent storage and logistics systems. This is emphasized with forums such as "Industry 4.0 Meets Made in China 2025 – The Benefits of Intelligent Warehousing and Production."

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Yesterday I had the honor to attend the Chinese-German Future Forum on the Collaboration in Vocational Education [Deutsch-Chinesisches Zukunftsforum zur Zusammenarbeit in der Berufsbildung, 中德职业教育合作研讨会寄语中德职教未来发展] which was one of the parallel sessions of the [Ersten Sitzung des Hochrangigen Deutsch-Chinesischen Dialogs für den gesellschaftlich-kulturellen Austausch, 中德高级别人文交流对话机制首次会议] held at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse [钓鱼台国宾馆] in Beijing as part of the delegation of our Hefei University [合肥学院]. The meeting was co-organized by the Central Institute for Vocational and Technical Education (CIVTE) of the Ministry of Education of China [中国教育部职业技术教育中心研究所], the China Education Association For International Exchange [中国教育国际交流协会], and the Hans-Seidel Foundation [德国汉斯·赛德尔基金会]. Hefei University can look back on a history of more than thirty years of highly successful collaboration with German institutes on vocational education, so this meeting was an important venue for us. Here you can find the conference programme in Chinese and German language.

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Today, I attended the fresh logistics Asia 2017 exhibition in Shanghai, a trade show for all elements involved in the logistics of fresh food delivery. Fresh food logistics are basically logistics with added requirements regarding temperature, delay, and safe handling of the transported items. The exhibits ranged from production machinery, delivery cars, fork lifts, and big and small containers, and storage systems over appliances like freezers, fridges, cooling systems and doors, registers to food and beverage products and supply offers. Like in case of the Intertraffic China 2017 exhibition I visited about ten days ago, the focus was more on hardware, with very cool exhibits and demonstrations.

For me as a researcher in optimization and mainly interested in the planning and the operations research making logistics and supply chains efficient, it was particularly interesting to see that even at such a rather hardware- and product-oriented fair, several exhibitors focusing on digitization, data management, and optimization of the logistics aspects were present, such as 晶链通. Yet, this subject was less prominent compared to the Intermodal Asia 2017 exhibition, maybe because large-volume container transport on a global scale over a heterogeneous network of carriers makes central data keeping an absolute requirement. Optimization and planning is enabled by the availability of data, it cannot work easily with Excel sheets. This is why I think that a technological evolution will probably start with better ERP, CRM, and warehouse management software, maybe as SaaS systems, for logistics and supply-chain management. Such systems have an immediate and obvious advantage for their users, as they enforce a clear work structure and allow for central statistical analysis. Based on the data collected, it becomes possible to move towards automated planning and optimization instead of starting with the latter.

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Yesterday, I attended the Intertraffic China exhibition in Shanghai. Unfortunately, I only had a relatively short time to spend at the event. Nevertheless, I found the wide variety of companies exhibiting quite impressive. Products were presented from many traffic-related fields such as traffic management, safety, infrastructure, and smart mobility. I personally found the solutions for electronic traffic management most interesting. Similarly to my impression from the Intermodal Asia exhibition earlier this year, I think that there is a very clear trend towards electronic, online, optimized management of logistics and traffic. Maybe this is even more than a trend and already the standard?

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